Jackie Chan: From Kung Fu Win to Commercial Fail?

Could Jackie Chan hurt his career by hawking too many products?

August 24, 2010, 3:44 AM

Aug. 24, 2010 — -- On the big screen, Jackie Chan is usually the guy who brings the pain. But with his latest ventures, he might be the one getting hurt.

A slew of products sold in China bearing his name, smile and seal of approval have proven defective, prone to explosion, and in one case, potentially damaging to consumers' health. The phenomenon has a name: the "Jackie Chan curse."

According to The Los Angeles Times, recently, a type of air conditioner that Chan hawked reportedly blew up. In July, rumors swirled that the Bawang-brand anti-hair-loss shampoo the raven-haired action icon advertised could contain carcinogens.

Chan's representatives did not immediately respond to ABCNews.com's requests for comment.

The face of the Hong Kong-born Chan, 56, may be more familiar in China than any other. In May, the Chinese edition of Forbes magazine ranked him as 2010's No. 1 celebrity, thanks in part to his many movies (his latest -- "The Karate Kid;" his most popular -- 1998's "Rush Hour") and his prominent role in Beijing's 2008 Olympic games, where he sang during the closing ceremonies.

In his homeland, he's no mere celebrity. Chan serves as a spokesperson for the Government of Hong Kong. Construction of a Jackie Chan museum is underway in Shanghai.

Given his larger-than-life status, it's doubtful Chan's career will suffer because of a few product snafus.

"It's a doubled edged sword for him," said Russell Flannery, Forbes magazine senior editor and Shanghai bureau chief. Although the defective branded products have generated bad press, Flannery said it would not have an impact on Chan's marketing power due to his record of longevity.

"In the long term, he'll rise above it," Flannery said.

But the tale of the "Jackie Chan curse" serves as a lesson to all famous folks trying to turn their moniker and mug into a brand name:

1. Stick to what makes sense. From frozen dumplings to Canon cameras, it seems little falls outside the realm of products Chan is willing to pimp. But as the old, awfully appropriate saying goes, "Jack of all trades, master of none."

"From a celebrity standpoint, the shotgun approach works because they want to diversify, they want to be as widespread as possible so that if one thing fails, you might not even notice it," said consumer marketing expert Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst with the NPD Group. "But from a business perspective, from a partnership perspective, you're absolutely better off sticking with something that connects with the celebirty."

It's why Lindsay Lohan should stick to hawking leggings and Martha Stewart can keep on keepin' on with the home improvement kit and kaboodle. In Chan's case: martial arts DVDs makes sense; anti virus software, not so much.

2. Do due dilligence. Maybe Chan can breeze past the Bawang blunder for now, but if he's not careful, he could go the way of celebrity hawkers gone bad. "Kathie Lee Gifford almost got run out of the industry because of her issue with sweat shops and child labor laws," Cohen noted. "Sean 'Diddy' Combs was invovled with animal fur with his Sean Jean line -- they were using dog and calling it fake fur."

3. Don't forget the big picture. Chan is an action star first, a product pitchman second. "You don't want to look like you're diluting the power of your own brand," said Cohen. "Image is everything in this industry. Some people never know when to say 'enough is enough.'"

Here's hoping Chan exerts the same prowess over his products that he does over his enemies and puts the kibosh on his more out-there endeavors. Surely, he wouldn't want to go down in history as the AC Exploder instead of the Kung Fu King.

ABC News' Leezel Tanglao contributed reporting.

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